6/6/11

Media response to hospital settlement. A return to balance?

There has been relatively little in the media on the Hospital - ONA interest arbitration award (see here for more on the award).     But here is the gist of the media reports so far, first from Sun media:


McGuinty was also asked why Ontario nurses will get 0.9% lump sum bonuses the first two years of a new contract after the premier promised to freeze public sector salaries to give a needed break to taxpayers.  He responded that the wage freeze only applied to non-unionized workers employed directly by the Ontario government and not unionized nurses who work for public hospitals.  "We also made it clear that taxpayers will not be paying any more money. If you negotiate something beyond zero, you are going to have to find that within your existing budget." That would mean the deal with nurses will leave the tab with hospitals.


The Toronto Star ran an article with a similar bent, but also noted these remarks:


Premier Dalton McGuinty on Friday admitted it would be impossible for his government to freeze all public-sector salaries. "You can't freeze everybody's salary for two years.... We have made it clear that taxpayers will not be paying any more money ... to be fair, it is not adding pressure to our budget....We said (to public-sector employers), if you exceed or go beyond the zero, then you have to find that money inside your budget." Health Minister Deb Matthews also said the province doesn't have much say when it comes to arbitration awards or direct deals with union nurses.  "It was an arbitrated award and certainly far, far better than what we had experienced before," she said.  Ontario Hospital Association president Tom Closson said the increase is consistent with the government's wage freeze policy.  "And 2.75 (per cent) over three years is something we think is quite reasonable in context of the political environment," he said.


The Globe and Mail and the Canadian Press ran similar stories.  So far, I haven't seen any comment from the Progressive Conservatives. 


Recently, there has been sharp criticism of public sector bargaining from the media.  Is the relatively muted response to this award a sign that this trend has lost momentum?  I'm not optimistic.   

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